Rather than tell you how social media can benefit your small business, I’ll show you. My favorite small business social media success story belongs to Killer Minnow, a visual effects, animation, and design studio located in New London, CT. Killer Minnow is three people: Steve Lettieri, Executive Producer; Rob King, Creative Director; and Chris Conway, Post-Production Supervisor. They’re not just good friends of mine, they’re also extremely talented individuals. I interviewed Steve to find out how he has leveraged social media to successfully grow the Killer Minnow business.
How did you get started with social media?
We formed as a company in early 2009, and began using social media as a promotional tool for original web video content we created for our sister company, Story Forge Labs. Based on that success, we started to do more promoting of our Killer Minnow work using the methods we learned about with SFL.
Which platforms and tools did you select?
While we have a presence on multiple channels, we have a few that we really focus our efforts on. First of all, the KM site is pretty much a blog. We’ve found this to be a great way to showcase our current work in between updating our demo reel, which can become dated fast. While it’s time consuming to update our reel, it’s easy to share our latest projects in a blog post, and then broadcast a link to that work on Twitter and Facebook. We also have a YouTube channel where we post any video projects we’ve worked on.
Where were you most successful? What benefits have you seen?
Twitter has been extremely beneficial for us in terms of connections. Through Twitter, we’ve been able to connect with other agencies and individuals that work in visual effects and animation or graphic designers and illustrators whose work we admire. We’ve also been able to connect with clients, or companies we’d like to become our clients.
Our methodology there has been pretty simple: we share interesting, relevant content, and support the efforts of our peers, followers, and fans.
Twitter has helped us initiate contact with potential clients. For example, our relationship with GO Media, a creative agency in Hartford, CT, began through Twitter, and resulted in us working together on a series of commercials for the University of Connecticut (here’s one and another if you’re interested). Another example would be a connection we made for SFL through Twitter: Craig Engler who heads up SyFy’s digital efforts. What started as a conversation through Twitter turned into several in-person meetings.
Those are just a couple of examples. I’d estimate that 25-30% of our revenue for 2010 has come through connections initially made via social media channels.
What challenges have you encountered along the way?
Finding the time to do it has been the biggest challenge. The value comes in “doing it” regularly, and Chris, Rob, and I try to spend at least a little time each day on Twitter and updating our blog as appropriate.
These platforms help nurture and strengthen relationships, but the process definitely takes time. To go back to the example of GO Media, we had several months of back and forth over Twitter, then e-mail, before we had a face-to-face meeting and talked about working together. You have to nurture it like a plant. You don’t stick the seed in the ground and come back six months later to find a tree; instead you have to water, feed, and care for that seed to make it grow.
Do you have any recommendations and tips for other small businesses wanting to use social media?
We’ve gotten the best results for our business through our personally branded efforts as opposed to our company-branded efforts. It’s much easier to develop the necessary trust with a person than a company.
The great thing about social media is that if you’re nervous about trying it, it’s easy to dip your toe in to observe and get a feel for it before going in full steam ahead. I’ve always found Mashable to be a great resource to learn more about what people are doing with the various technologies involved.
My final recommendation would be that social media not be the only thing you do. You still need to go to, say, a Digital Media Conference in Stamford, CT, like I did last week. But afterward, I found the people I met at the conference on Twitter or LinkedIn, and began the process of growing that relationship into something more. As someone I know said recently, ignore social media at your peril.